Self-Control Modulates the Behavioral Response of Interpersonal Forgiveness

Front Psychol. 2020 Mar 27:11:472. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00472. eCollection 2020.


Previous studies have shown that forgiveness is associated with the ability of self-control. However, whether self-control can modulate interpersonal forgiveness remains unclear. In the current study, we aimed to explore the relationship between self-control and the process of forgiveness using a behavioral measure of forgiveness during which participants distributed money between themselves and unknown others who had previously treated them fairly or unfairly in an adapted decision-making task. Seventy-two participants with low or high self-control were recruited based on their scores on the self-control scale (SCS). Results showed that participants exhibited increased anger and decreased happiness after experiencing unfair treatment. Participants with high self-control distributed more money to opponents who previously treated them unfairly compared with those with low self-control, whereas no such difference was observed to opponents who previously treated them fairly between the two groups. A significantly positive correlation was also found between the forgiveness rates and participants' self-control scores. These findings suggest that self-control modulates interpersonal forgiveness responses. Individuals with high self-control expressed an increased prosocial response toward people who previously offended them, which is similar to the process of forgiveness.

Keywords: cognitive process; decision-making; interpersonal forgiveness; prosocial behavior; self-control.